Austerlitz (The Battle of Austerlitz) (1960)




Director:     Abel Gance.

Starring:     Pierre Mondy (Napoléon Bonaparte), Martine Carol (Joséphine de Beauharnais), Claudia Cardinale (Pauline Bonaparte), Leslie Caron (Mlle de Vaudey), Vittorio De Sica (Pope Pius VII), Elvire Popesco (Laetitia Bonaparte), Jean Marais (Carnot), Michel Simon (Alboise), Orson Welles (Robert Fulton), Georges Marchal (Le maréchal Jean Lannes), Jack Palance (General Weirother), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Ségur fils), Rossano Brazzi (Lucien Bonaparte), Jean Mercure (Talleyrand), Anna Maria Ferrero (Elisa Bonaparte).

 French production.

Napoleon's most celebrated military victory - the Battle of Austerlitz.




Spoiler Warning:





See Napoleon (2003) for historical background.


1805 (December 2) – the Battle of Austerlitz began exactly one year after Napoleon's crowning as Emperor of France.

Napoleon advanced with an army of 125,000 organized into seven Corps, by far the largest force he had ever commanded.

I Corps – Bernadotte

II Crops – Marmont

III Corps – Davout

IV Corps – Soult

V Corps – Lannes and Murat (two corps)

VI Corps – Ney.

27,000 Austrian troops under the command of General Mack surrendered at the fortress of Ulm. Another 33,000 Austrian troop were also captured. It cost the French only 2,000 casualties.

The battle opened the way to the capture of Vienna, the capital of the Austrian Empire.

The Russian army finally hooked up with the remnants of the Austrian army north of Vienna. The Austrian commander Mack tried to break out of the French encirclement through the battles of Elchingen and Haslach.

Napoleon found ground suited for the oncoming battle. The Zuran and Santon hills were in the north with the 35-40-foot Prazen Height in the center. The Goldbach Brook ran astride the little villages of Sokolnitz and Telnitz.

Allied forces occupied Prazen Heights. Napoleon decided to lure the Allies into attacking his fright flank by giving the impression that it was weak. When the Allies attacked the right flank, Napoleon would hit the enemies’ center.

Austrian Commander-in-Chief Weirother and Russian Czar Alexander I agreed to have Buxhowden assault the supposedly weak French right wing, Kolowrat controlled the center and Bagration the right.

The battle began around 8 am. The allies attacked the village of Telnitz and drove the troops of the 3rd Line Regiment across the Goldbach Brook. Davout’s corps arrived and pushed the allies back out of Telnitz. The village changed hands again as the French were pushed out of Telnitz by hussars.

The French curbed the Allied attack on the French right wing.

The second column of Allied infantry attacked the village of Sokolnitz, but were held off by the French 26th Light Regiment and the famed Tirailleurs (the French skirmishers). But what really forced the French out of the village was the order by General Langeron to bombard it. The French counterattacked to regain the village, but in turn were forced out by the Allies with Friant’s division (part of III Corps) retaking the village itself. The village changed hands several times before the end of the battle.

At 8:30 am Napoleon ordered Soult to attack the center of the Allied line and take the Prazen Heights., The French troops were forced back, but a bayonet attack forced the Allies from the Heights. Napoleon moved his headquarters to Prazen Heights

To the north, the French Vandamme’s division attacked and broke several Allied battalions. Grand Duke Constantine, Czar Alexander’s brother, counterattacked with the Russian Imperial Guard and had some success. Napoleon countered by throwing into the fray his own Guard cavalry. But it was primarily the horse artillery of the Guard that broke the Russians counterattack.

In the south, in a double-pronged assault, St. Hilaire’s division and part of Davout’s III Corps pushed the Allies out of the village of Sokolnitz. This rout led to a general Allied panic and their forces abandoned the field.

To add insult to injury, the French artillery pounded the ice on the pond across which the Allied troops were escaping. Many men drowned in the freezing water.

Allied casualties were about 25,000 (28% of effectives) while the French casualties were around 8,500 (12% of effectives).

The battle effectively wiped out the Holy Roman Empire. The Russian army was allowed to head back home. And Austria was forced to concede territory to Napoleon’s allies and pay 40 million francs in indemnities.


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